Could we be approaching a tipping-point in workplace strategy? Last Friday, I spent the day listening to world famous speaker, Gary Hamel, as he shared ideas about reinventing the way we manage organisations. The key take away for me was the observation that there is a noticeable shift in power from the provider to the consumer. This thought-provoking seminar on the future of management prompted me to consider could this shift also apply to the commercial property market and the provision of 21st Century workplaces?
Over the course of the day, Gary convinced his audience at London Business School that we need to take a long, hard look at how we do things as “…more of the same, won’t cut it.” He expects the changes underway and in the pipeline for the next 10-15 years will, at the least, be as profound as those experienced in the early part of the 20th century. However, he admitted that delivering change and innovation in organisations is challenging. This, he summarised by the noteworthy quote: “We’re all prisoners of precedent.” The internet sets the foundation for a new industrial/business order within which the empowerment of the consumer reigns supreme.
When you consider this premise alongside the, by now, accepted fact that the nature of work is changing, the inevitable question springs to mind – what are the implications for how we use and consume the workplace?
For instance, while many organisations strive to be agile in how they operate, their progress is blocked by the liability of large, inflexible real estate portfolios. What if they were free to change this? Allied to breaking this sense of inertia, is the whole area of talent attraction and retention which is now one of the top priorities for most business leaders. What if organisations were forced to set up operations in non-traditional business locations in order to maintain a productive workforce? What impact would this have on established office/industrial locations?
In terms of the spaces themselves, which for the most part, are regarded by occupiers as over-specified and lacking a meaningful sustainability standard – could this shift in power force a change of heart in how new spaces are delivered? Could we see a shift to true 21st Century workspaces which are built to meet the needs of the consumer and are truly sustainable?
Clearly, these thoughts pose big questions for those of us who are thinking about the future. It is highly likely that the historians of the 22nd Century will look back at this period in time and remark that it was one of the major tipping points in history. The game at large is changing and for those of us charged with the stewardship of the built environment we have a duty to the generations that follow to leave them with a meaningful legacy.